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July 20, 2022

Government Watchdog Report Released on Security Gaps that Leave the Nation Vulnerable to a Dirty Bomb Attack

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, released a report he requested from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) oversight of purchases of radiological materials. In the report, entitled “Preventing a Dirty Bomb: Vulnerabilities Persist in NRC’s Controls for Purchases of High-Risk Radioactive Material,” the GAO found security gaps that could be exploited by terrorists and other bad actors to obtain material to deploy a dirty bomb domestically. Such an event could harm the public, contaminate property, trigger mass evacuations, and impose steep clean-up costs.

GAO found vulnerabilities in NRC’s procedures for verifying legitimate purchasers of radiological materials and faulted NRC for their continued use of paper licenses, rather than more secure alternatives. GAO also expressed concern that NRC’s threat matrix fails to consider the socioeconomic impacts and costs of a dirty bomb, which GAO estimates could be billions of dollars even for a small dirty bomb.

"While we have spent more than two decades since the September 11 attacks improving our homeland security infrastructure to protect the country from terrorist threats, it is concerning that security gaps remain that could leave the country vulnerable to a dirty bomb. Just recently, Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremists groups have advocated for a dirty bomb attack on the homeland. Such an attack would have a severe socioeconomic impact on the country and possibly result in significant loss of life.

“The NRC has the authority to address the vulnerabilities identified in the report, and I urge them to take quick action to do so. This is a clear national security issue that the Federal government must remedy.”

Link to Report

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